I was as surprised as anybody in 2017 when Donald Trump raced into the White House. It was crazy, it was curious, it was impossible. It felt as though an invisible hand was clearing the path for him to win the American presidency.
As I began to hear prominent Christians, mostly charismatic evangelical leaders (not only in America) prophesying about his presidency, I felt uneasy. There was a feeling among these leaders that God was putting Trump into the White House for a reason – that somehow he would be the catalyst for a large-scale turning back to God.
Trump was compared to Jehu, a rogue element in ancient Israel, who, maybe because he was unconventional and rough around the edges, helped bring an end to the house of the wicked King Ahab (2 Kings 9). He was also compared to Cyrus, who paved the way for the people of Israel to go back to their land at the end of the exile, a figure of deliverance (Isaiah 45:1-2).
These leaders sensed that God was putting Trump in the White House possibly because of his unconventional character. The narrative became: what America needs is someone new and different to stir things up.
This baffled me, but I was prepared to put my scepticism on hold and watch to see what would happen. And so I watched Trump’s actions and interactions with the nation and with others. I watched his rhetoric.
What I saw was that, through President Trump, many things were indeed stirred up. Somehow the Trump phenomenon shone a bright light on dark corners – the mistrust and even fear of foreigners that many have, the disdain for people affected by poverty, the worship of laws that uphold a particular way of life. Trump in the White House illuminated what is really in people’s hearts and what is valuable to them.
I wondered whether Trump being a catalyst for a turning back to God could be right after all. Maybe as light fell on these dark corners, we would be convicted, as Christians, of rigid religion, of pride, of a love of power, of lack of humility and love. Maybe the Trump phenomenon was an invitation to face up to what was being exposed in terms of the importance and value of good character.
As Trump talked about walls would we, as Christians who claim to follow Jesus, realise how divisive our rhetoric often is? How often we categorise people in ways that smack of power and domination? How selfish we are with the blessings we ourselves have received?
As Trump talked about “making America great again”, would we realise that greatness is not about upholding a particular way of life, but about humility and putting others first, as Jesus demonstrated and taught us? As Trump’s comments became increasingly exposed as lies and factual distortions, would we recognise the value of truth and stand up for what is right?
With two months to go before the next presidential election, it disturbs me to hear repeated on various platforms the narrative that Trump has been chosen by God to be a blessing to America, to be God’s instrument to help America reclaim her ‘Christianity’.
I look at what is unfolding in America now and I am deeply grieved and troubled. I see swathes of Christians, people I would call friends, people I know love Jesus, hoping and praying that Trump gets another term in office. I see these friends, becoming increasingly sensitive to criticism of Trump, reacting in anger when any of his actions or his rhetoric is questioned. And I see these friends buying into the belief that Trump is God’s instrument to lead America back to her Christian heritage.
And I ask myself: how is it possible that in four years of the Trump phenomenon, so many Christians have not had a change of heart and a change of conviction? How is it that so many continue to uphold a man of arrogance, who sees himself above the law? How is it possible that so many Christians buy into a rhetoric that is so far removed from Jesus’ teachings?
In the Bible we read about God hardening people’s hearts as a response to their sin. As though he is saying: “Okay then, have it your way.” With the impending presidential election I am left wondering…
I believe this moment is an invitation to examine our own hearts as we respond to what is happening in parts of the body of Christ in the States. It’s an opportunity to ensure that our own hearts do not become hardened to the Holy Spirit’s work in us. A time to line up our behaviour, our actions and thought patterns with Jesus’ number one law, which is to love God and to love others (whether friend or opposer).
I continue to watch and wait and examine my own heart in brokenness before God, even as my heart grieves for my American friends and my soul refuses to be comforted.
Ulrike Hunt lives in Luton, where she is part of the team that co-ordinates Prayer for Luton. She is the author of Yeshua Unlocked, Journey into Living Prayer and If God is Love… (available on lulu.com or Amazon). Her day jobs include administration for a local church and working for The Feast Youth Project
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